Friday, January 10, 2014

The Chandamama-Childhood (Part-I)

If you were to ask me which was the most joyous part of my childhood, I would straightaway say that it was the time I spent in reading an issue of Chandamama. I am also sure that most of the persons of my generation would give the same reply. Indeed Chandamama was a part and parcel of our life in those days. We would rather forego our food just to read an issue of this wonderful children’s magazine of yesteryears.

I do not exactly remember at what stage of my childhood this wonderful magazine entered my life. It was as if it was there always. Our family was not a subscriber to the magazine. But we always tried our best to lay our hands on the latest issue wherever it was possible. I distinctly remember an occasion when my brother and I visited the house of our mother’s maternal uncle in a place called Kelakodige. We were finding it difficult to spend our time there as the uncle had only one daughter who had been married away. There were no other children in the house and only uncle and aunty lived there. Looking at our misery uncle handed over to us two volumes of bound magazines. When both of us opened the bound books our joy knew no bounds. They contained the old issues of Chandamama bound in a serial order! Thereafter we never knew how our time went. We savored the stories just like two hungry pets.

We were not fully through all the issues in two days when our mother came to take us back to our home. We requested our mother to ask the uncle for permitting us to take the books home. We wanted to return them after reading all the issues. The uncle was a reserved person and even our mother could not talk to him freely. But knowing the fascination of children for Chandamama she did not want to disappoint her young sons. She asked the uncle gathering all her courage at a time. And lo! We heard him giving his permission subject to the condition that the books would be returned intact. Mother extended her guarantee on our behalf. We carried the two books as if we were carrying treasures home! We walked the three-mile distance as if we were floating in air!

Our next Chandamama-treasure discovery was at the house of the biggest land-lord of our village. This house was very prestigious for all of us as the house carried the name of our village; or rather this family was so famous that the village carried its name - Belavinakodige. I distinctly remember the first time when we found the ‘treasure’ in this house.
The family used to celebrate several important functions at their house when they would invite the entire village. The most important occasions used to be Navarathri, Anantha-Vratha and Rama Navami. The invitees would assemble by 10 AM at the house and would be served the ‘panakam’ on arrival. Thereafter there would be a gap of nearly 3 hours before they were called to attend the ‘mangalarathi’. The elders used to spend this time in playing cards, with only the number 28-game permitted without any bets. We children would spend our time in playing some games or in having a fight among us by forming two groups.

On one such occasion we found some of the elders, who were not interested in playing cards, moving to the upstairs (Upparige) of the house. Here I must tell you that in those days only the houses of the big land-lords used to have this Upparige. Our village had only four such houses. In the normal course we were not expected to enter there. As such the Uppariges of such houses were a sort of mysterious places for us. In fact many of us thought that the land-lords were keeping their treasure there.

When I and my brother found some of the people moving to upstairs, we followed them out of curiosity. And lo! We indeed found the treasure there! But only the treasure was not in the form of cash as we had imagined. It was in the form of Chandamama issues for a period of over four years including the latest ones! Our joy knew no bounds. The people sitting there were reading the issues silently. We joined this exclusive club and we never looked back. We made it a point thereafter to proceed to the upstairs immediately on reaching the prestigious house. Oh! What a thrill we had in going through all those issues one by one! We never knew how our time went. We used to be rudely disturbed when we were called to attend the Mangalarathi and the sumptuous lunch thereafter!

The Chandamama of those days was indeed a complete children magazine. We enjoyed every page of it starting from the front page Mahabharatha-related colourful sketch by the great artist M T V Acharya to the back page. Even the advertisements had their own attractions for us. Hats off to the duo of Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani for having made our childhood so enjoyable and memorable! Indeed one of our goals in life of those days was to go to Madras, visit the Chandamama office at Vadapalani and read all those issues which we had missed out.

Each issue of the magazine used to cover all those topics in which children had a fascination. The stories and poems would cover adventure, epics, comics, puranas, moral related and others including stories from Arabian and Greek mythologies. There would be a one main serial story generally of the adventure category. These stories would run for as many as 18 issues. The other serials would be in the range of two-nine episodes. In this category fell ‘adventures of Sindabad-the great sailor’, ‘Alibaba and forty thieves;, ‘Allauddin and his magic lamp’, ‘Bhuvana Sundari’ and ‘Roopadhara’s Travels’- the last two were actually the Greek epics Iliad and Odyssey of the legendary Homer carrying characters with Indian names, written to perfection by the Chandamama’s in-house writers.

The stories and poems would be accompanied by colourful sketches which contributed to the effect of the stories immensely. While MTV Acharya had a monopoly in sketching the characters in Mahabharatha, the main serial story would have great sketches from Chitra (we were told that the original name of the artist was Raghavan). However the best sketches were from Sankar who would generally cover all other stories. These pictures would be so beautiful that I have no hesitation to say that we simply fell in love with many of the beautiful girls sketched by Sankar!

Coming to the main serial stories, the first of such stories I read was by name ‘the story of triplets’ (avali makkalu in Kannada) followed by ‘the rare pillar (Apoorva Sthamba), ‘The comet’ (Dhoomakethu), ‘the God of crocodile’ (Makara Devathe), ‘the three wizards’ (Moovaru Manthrikaru) and ‘the bronze Fort (Kanchina Kote). All these were stories of adventure and maintained our curiosity till the last episode. Each episode would end at such a point in the story to keep us waiting on our feet till we read the next episode. We had to wait for another month keeping our fingers crossed.
- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy

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